Refugee overcomes dependency syndrome

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Patrick Lua Lua (35) has lost all hope of ever returning to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
At the zenith of the DRC war in Eastern Congo, Lua Lua survived a landmine explosion and immediately sought refuge in Zimbabwe with his wife and three children.
However, he lost his leg in the explosion and is now living on government handouts in Waterfalls.
NewsDay caught up with Lua Lua at this year’s commemoration of the World Refugee Day (WRD) whose theme was ‘Home — took away my home but not my life’ where he said he is determined to shrug off the dependency syndrome associated with refugees.
Lua Lua is a talented artist with a penchant for painting. He is part of hundreds of refugees camped at the Waterfalls Transit Centre where war survivors from countries including Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and DRC are housed.
They all depend on the government of Zimbabwe for assistance.
While others were commemorating the WRD where guests heard horrific ordeals of how they were hounded out of their countries to Zimbabwe, Lua Lua took advantage of proceedings to market his works.
The WRD has been set aside by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to remember and pay tribute to more than 15 million people dotted around the globe uprooted by conflict and violence in their home countries.
“I came here with my wife and three children courtesy of the UNCHR and now I’m staying in Waterfalls with my family,” said Lua Lua.
“I now use art to survive and despite the challenges, life is better and peaceful this side.”
He almost broke down during the interview saying although he wanted to return to his country, the current situation barred him from even thinking about that, as reports of killings continue to pour in.
He said he was unhappy with depending on the government for everything and prayed that his art gives him a lifeline.
None of his children go to school because he can’t afford it.
“In concurrence with this year’s theme, they (rebels) may have taken my home but they have not taken away my future,” he said.
“I am a refugee, but I don’t want to remain dependent on other people, so it is wise that I keep on working on my art to make a living.”
Lua Lua, like other refugees, has found a safe haven in Zimbabwe far from ambulance sirens, gunshots and explosives in the DRC.
“Looking at dead bodies had become the order of the day. At least now we can afford to work hard for our personal development. I tell you my brother life is horrific up there.
“People kill each other every day. That is not life,” said Lua Lua.
Zimbabwe plays host to more than 5000 refugees who flooded the country from their respective nations, fleeing the misery visited upon them by civil wars.
Minister of Public Service and Social Welfare, Paurina Mpariwa, said the government was doing the best it could to provide essential services to refugees.
Mpariwa said that like any other country in the region, Zimbabwe would soon embark on voluntarily repatriation of Rwandese nationals by December 31 2011.
“We are doing the best we can to ensure the provision of shelter, water and sanitation.
“Like any other country in the region, Zimbabwe will soon embark on repatriation of Rwandan refugees by December 31, 2011,” she said.